Getting High Marks
For the expanding Riverview School District seeks wireless and cloud-based access control
- By Jeff Perri
- April 01, 2018
Central Arkansas’ Riverview School District is on the
small side, serving only about 1,300 students, but the
district’s Superintendent, Dr. David Rutledge, is a big
thinker. When the district recently agreed to invest in a
new access control system to secure the Junior/Senior
High School campus, Rutledge was determined to install a solution to
encompass the campus’s entire 150,000 square feet of space, spanning
multiple buildings, while providing ease of access to teachers, administrators,
maintenance and custodial staff.
“We are a consolidated district that has grown tremendously since
we were formed, in 1991,” Rutledge said. “The problem with growing
incrementally is that we ended up without a common system. It was
difficult to keep track of all the keys that were in circulation, and
impossible to keep track of the people entering our buildings.”
The project was put out to bid and awarded to Blue Sky Technologies,
of Jonesboro, Arkansas, for its innovative and extremely costeffective
approach leveraging a cloud-based, wireless solution called
pdk.io from Utah-based manufacturer, ProdataKey.
LAYOUT OF THE CAMPUS
“After we began to evaluate this project in its entirety, we quickly recognized
that based on the physical layout of the campus and the way
the buildings were geographically dispersed, the cabling and boring
costs to put in a traditional system would have been astronomical,”
said Brian Duckworth, managing partner at Blue Sky Technologies. “A
wireless, cloud-based solution made perfect sense. We installed a single
‘cloud node’ at the high school’s Main Distribution Frame and wireless
door controllers at each of the 45 external doors on campus.
The door controllers communicate back to the cloud node over a
completely self-healing, wireless mesh network that services only the
pdk.io solution. It required no cabling, and the wireless connectivity is
extremely fast and secure.”
Each of the approximately 100 district employees have been provided
with credentialed key fobs that provide them with access to campus
“We wanted our teachers to still have access whenever they needed
it, but now, we have a record of who is coming and going. If something
happens over the weekend, we can see who was in the building
when, and that really helps us out from a management perspective,”
The system is primarily maintained and managed by the district’s
technology coordinator. However, the system’s reporting features are
accessed regularly by other school administrators using the easy-touse
phone app or web browser interface.
“Before my principals head home at night, they can pull up the app,
take a look to see which doors have been left open or unlocked, and then just deal with those instead of walking around the entire campus,”
Rutledge said. “It has really simplified their end-of-day routine.”
CONVENIENCE IS THE KEY
It’s not just the administrators who appreciate the new system. So do
the teachers. “They love not having to fumble for their keys. For them,
the level of convenience has gone way up,” Rutledge said.
The system is also beneficial to the larger community, which sometimes
uses the school’s facilities during evenings or weekends for special
events. Administrators can provide a temporary fob to whoever
might need to access buildings and the fob will only work for the designated
time. Afterward, Rutledge or the school principals can check
their phone app to make sure that all the doors have been locked up
and that everything is secure.
The system has simplified other processes as well. For example,
some doors now automatically unlock at 7 a.m., allowing early arriving
students to enter and proceed to the cafeteria, where there is supervision
until school starts.
In an emergency, such as an active shooter, the administrator can
use the phone app to lock down doors throughout the entire campus.
Or unlock all the doors, in cases such as a fire.
“That’s a huge safety feature for us,” Rutledge said. “Our campus is
located just off the interstate, so people are passing by here all the time.
It’s very important for us to have that capability.”
AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
The installation of a wireless, cloud-based access control system at Riverview
School District has been a game changer not only for the district
itself, but for Blue Sky Technologies.
“Riverview was our first experience with this technology and, since
then, we’ve already done a few more school systems with it and have
many more proposed,” said Jason Harrison, security practice manager at
Blue Sky. “Especially in the K-12 environment, it makes so much sense,
based on the way their campuses are set up, the ease of implementation
and lower cost due to no cabling. In addition, the cloud-based application
is very user-friendly to set up and administer. You can pretty much
program the entire system on the fly from a cell phone.”
Rutledge shares enthusiasm with Duckworth and Harrison for the
system, and is equally pleased with Blue Sky’s support and guidance on
the project. On the horizon, he envisions the possibility of leveraging
the system to simplify non-security operations, like tracking teacher
attendance. He also knows, with certainty, that as the district expands
further, it will be easy and affordable to add doors to
the system, thanks to the wireless connectivity.
“This has been a big step in a new direction for us,
and being able to implement technology like this on
such a large scale has been truly impressive.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of CSLS.